White matter hyperintensities and vascular risk factors in monozygotic twins

Mara ten Kate, Carole H. Sudre, Anouk den Braber, Elles Konijnenberg, Michel G. Nivard, M. Jorge Cardoso, Philip Scheltens, Sébastien Ourselin, Dorret I. Boomsma, Frederik Barkhof, Pieter Jelle Visser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Cerebral white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) have been associated with vascular risk factors, both of which are under genetic influence. We examined in a monozygotic twin sample whether the association between vascular risk and WMHs is influenced by overlapping genetic factors. We included 195 cognitively normal monozygotic twins (age = 70 ± 7 years), including 94 complete pairs. Regional WMH load was estimated using an automated algorithm. Vascular risk was summarized with the Framingham score. The within–twin pair correlation for total WMHs was 0.76 and for Framingham score was 0.77. Within participants, Framingham score was associated with total and periventricular WMHs (r = 0.32). Framingham score in 1 twin was also associated with total WMHs in the co-twin (r = 0.26). Up to 83% of the relation between both traits could be explained by shared genetic effects. In conclusion, monozygotic twins have highly similar vascular risk and WMH burden, confirming a genetic background for these traits. The association between both traits is largely driven by overlapping genetic factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-48
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of aging
Issue numberJune
Early online date10 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Monozygotic twins
  • Vascular risk factors
  • White matter hyperintensities

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)

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